Alla Akhundova: "Talking to people who don’t read is unpleasant"

Alla Akhundova: "Talking to people who don’t read is unpleasant"

For those who were born in the Soviet Union, the films 'Automobile, Violin, and Dog Spot', 'Along Unknown Paths', the poems about a beautiful girl or a sad boy were both a way of developing a soul, a motivator and part of the emerging worldview. Alla Akhundova's collections of poems invariably coexisted on bookshelves with the books by Agnia Barto or Boris Zakhoder, and literary critic Stanislav Lesnevsky believed that "Russian female poetry is made of three 'Ah': Akhmatova, Akhmadulina and Akhundova." Yesterday, the poet, screenwriter, playwright and translator Alla Nurievna Akhundova turned 80 years old.

She was born in Moscow in the Azerbaijani-Russian family, therefore, she believes that she is intended to combine two cultures. When the war began, Alla Akhundova was not even two years old, but evacuation, wagons, and bandaged soldiers crashed into her memory. The theme of military childhood is one of the key in her work. Just recall the 'Shared Bread' film with the script wrote by Akhundova, about a Baku boy losing bread cards and going through many other difficulties, but he has friends who are ready to help him and share the last piece of bread with him. Film director Oktay Mirkasimov once said that even if Akhundova did nothing for filmmaking except writing the script for 'Shared Bread', then she would still go down in the history of filmmaking...

In 1943, Nuri Akhundov removed his family from evacuation to his native Baku, where Azerbaijani, Armenian and Russian speech was heard. Remembering that diverse and international city, Alla Akhundova admits that she still looks at ethnic grounds with a heavy heart.

From her childhood, she also remembers a very old Orthodox church in the village in the Shahbuz district of Nakhchivan, where their family lived for a while, and later just visited. But the future writer realized the concept of faith only after the war, in Moscow, when she had to obtain a passport. An indication of nationality was mandatory in passports and other documents proving the identity of citizens of the Soviet Union. Each citizen determined his nationality upon receipt of a passport at the age of 16 - maternal or paternal. In most cases, it was paternal. But Alla Akhundova's father had 'a Turk' written in the passport  instead of 'an Azerbaijani', but Turkey already joined NATO in 1952, which seemed ideologically wrong to passport office workers. That's how Alla Nurievna Akhundova became Russian not only in language, but also in passport.

The girl was introduced to the literary Russian language by her grandmother, then there was a literature club, the Literary Institute and the Higher Script Courses, the first poems published in  'Yunost', 'Moscow Komsomolets', poetry collections 'White Light', 'Sunday Garden', 'Steps', 'Cards with views', prose collections 'Shared Bread', 'Facial expression. Five stories', translations from Turkish, English, Arabic, Georgian poetry, as well as the 'Dede Korkut Kitabı' heroic epic, membership in the Writers' Union and the Union of Cinematographers.

Alla Akhundova never forgot about her roots. Recall at least the poem 'Prophet' written for the 190th anniversary of Mirza Fatali Akhundov:

"Blessed is my namesake,
Mirza Fatali, son of Akhund, from Nukha.
That's why he was a hereditary prophet.
Nuha, where he was born on time,
Was founded ... In truth, not rumored
By Noach, the Old Testament Nukh,
And completely antediluvian Noah ...
Or maybe Nokh? Well, what are we arguing about?
We know by whom ... the Prophet, newest one... "

The collapse of the Soviet Union did not cause Akhundova to feel "the greatest geopolitical catastrophe", but she was very worried about breaking cultural ties, because for the poet there is no division of peoples into "friends" and "strangers". "When I read English or Azerbaijani folk songs - I have feeling that all this is mine, even if these verses are painted in different colors," Akhundova says.

Now Alla Akhundova lives in isolation, receives the presidential pension from Ilham Aliyev and does not do interviews. Speaking to Vestnik Kavkaza on the phone he shared her grief.

- Alla Nurievna, we would like to congratulate you on your anniversary!

- I don't feel well, and don't do interviews. Since 1970 I have been a member of the Writers' Union, but they do not congratulate anyone. I wanted to present my books at the exhibition, they said: "Bring it here." But I have no one to bring my books them. Seven years ago I lost my daughter, so I don’t go out, I live, look at my books, which are reprinted every year, and  the fact that children read fairy tales and poems that I once wrote makes me happy.

Yesterday there were 40 calls from different countries where people who read poetry and prose live. And communicating with people who don’t read is unpleasant for me.

- What was it like to be a children's writer in the 1960-1970s?

- It was pretty hard. I remember that three important chapters were removed from my book, they asked me: "For God's sake, leave your story at the Soviet Writer publishing house, because this is a very good story." And it was published, and I was crying like a fool, because the three most important chapters on how people lived after the war were removed.

I myself have experienced endless grief in my life. I lost many people. My father died on my birthday. Before giving birth to my daughter, I buried my mother. Then I buried my brother, my daughter ... One should learn to live with that. Our people experienced such grief during and after the war! I heard and saw such things in my childhood that you won’t describe in some book!

Seven to eight years ago, Goslitizdat made 148 mistakes when publishing my poems. For example, two different poems were published as one. And it was Goslitizdat, which has always been checked! It's a shame how many mistakes are now made by television, newspapers and even publishing houses. There is a massive illiteracy.

- What would you advise to modern children's writers?

- Now those who can pay are accepted into the Writers' Union, while the old people honestly continue to write, but they don’t get paid for it. Ukraine and the Baltic republics do not pay for the scripts, although many films were made there. The Baltic states sold one of my films to 80 countries without paying a penny to the author. This has been happening for 30 years. Everyone has their own lives. Someone has a dog life, someone has a human life.

One does what one must to survive. I am absolutely calm about this, because there are things I am committed to. I translated a lot from Turkic languages, I am an author of 201 books and 18 films, and the first animated film I made for Baku.

- Do you visit Baku sometimes now?

- I’m a native Muscovite, and I haven’t been to Baku since I lost my daughter. We traveled together with her there, saw that the city had changed and become beautiful, more prosperous.

Alla Akhundova: "Talking to people who don’t read is unpleasant"
Alla Akhundova: "Talking to people who don’t read is unpleasant"
Alla Akhundova: "Talking to people who don’t read is unpleasant"
Alla Akhundova: "Talking to people who don’t read is unpleasant"
Alla Akhundova: "Talking to people who don’t read is unpleasant"

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